Did you see the show on Channel 4 this week, Davina McCall: Sex, Myths and the Menopause? It was so informative and gave me a sense of not being alone. For Davina to openly talk about her menopause experience cut through the taboo that we shouldn’t mention the menopause. Women have suffered in silence for years, some wanting to end their lives due to not being heard by their GP’s and not having anyone to talk to. Even Davina said that a few years ago she wouldn’t have admitted to her friends to being on HRT whereas now she is announcing it to the world. Davina began having symptoms at 44 and describes how she felt like she “had aged 10 years overnight”. Thanks Davina for being so open and honest, maybe the conversations are going to start.
From women who have been prescribed anti-depressants to treat their symptoms to women who have stood on the top of a cliff looking down, this show was honest and open about how the menopause feels. 51% of the UK population are female and yet we don’t talk about this important part of our lives. Baroness Syeeda Warsi described having “brain fog” in the House of Lords, Zoe Ball experienced, panic attacks, anxiety, mood swings and said it felt like “the beginning of the end” and these ladies are not alone. I am one of them and maybe you are too.
In the UK it is difficult to be referred to a menopause clinic on the NHS as there are only 97 throughout the whole country. There is only 1 in Birmingham which is the second biggest UK city! How can something that affects 51% of the population at some point in their lives be so difficult to access? One lady described being told she was too young to be menopausal by her GP and was put on anti-depressants. She really had to fight to get the referral she needed. The average age in the UK is 51, however, many women become perimenopausal much earlier than that ( this begins several years before menopause. It’s the time when the ovaries gradually begin to make less Oestrogen. It usually starts in women’s 40s, but can start in their 30s or even earlier).
And we have all heard scary stories about HRT (hormone replacement therapy) and only 1 in 10 women in the UK who are in this stage of their lives are on HRT! In 2002 a study found an increase in the risk of breast cancer for women on HRT. Overnight 50% of women on HRT stopped and have coped without. However, this study used unreliable methods and the results were only applicable to a narrow group of women. HRT can help, not everyone but a lot of women could get benefit from this treatment. Unfortunately, GP’s are not always very knowledgeable about the perimenopause and therefore say that their patients are too young. I have experienced this myself, being told that I am too young (46) even though I only have 1 ovary now and therefore 50% less Oestrogen production anyway!
This programme has really helped me to be brave and ask questions of the medical profession, to read books about the menopause and then discuss with friends what is happening. If you haven’t watched it, find it on All 4 and put your feet up and join in the discussion. We can all do this, especially if we all talk about it and support each other.